Persona Pizzeria to serve up handcrafted pies on Columbia’s Main Street this fall
A California-based pizza company soon will offer handcrafted pies in downtown Columbia. Persona Pizzeria is slated to open this fall in a cozy spot on Main Street across from the South Carolina State House.
“The next big slice of the fast-casual restaurant market is coming from an Italian-American staple — pizza — and we believe the southeastern United States is an underserved market that will welcome our product line with open arms,” Persona founder Joe Baumel said. “We’re confident that everything from our speed of service to the quality of the product will make our pizzerias a welcome addition in the region.”
The Columbia location will be the first franchise to open on the East Coast for the restaurant as company officials make plans to expand throughout the Southeast.
Baumel and CEO and Executive Chef Glenn Cybulski, founded Persona Pizzeria in 2013 to offer foodies fresh artisan pizzas.
Baumel studied at the Culinary Institute of America, while Cybulski was taught the authentic method of making pizza in Italy, becoming a certified Pizzaiolo. Cybulski has won 112 culinary award, including “World Pizza Champion” at the Citta Di Napoli world pizza competition.
Customers can create their own pizzas or choose from a rotating list of six specialty pizzas. The pies are placed inside a specially-designed oven and cooked for 90 seconds for a quick-fire pizza. The result is a made-to-order, Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza reminiscent of what can be found in Naples, Italy.
“It’s a huge part of the farm-to-table mentality,” he said.
The Columbia location will hire about 20 full-time and part-time employees, according to Cybulski.
The company’s expansion into the Southeast was made possible by a partnership with franchise partner Simpli.Fresh.Concepts. Two locations in addition to the Columbia restaurant are planned for North Carolina and Georgia.
Cybulski said the concept of Persona is similar to restaurants like Chipotle and Subway, where customers can pick and choose from more than 30 toppings to customize their pizzas at a low cost. Cybulski and Baumel had intentions of offering franchise opportunities when Persona was created.
“During the last several years, a band of start-ups have been vying to become the leader in fast-casual pizza, but none of them have the quality and authenticity of Persona,” said Simpli.Fresh.Concepts co-founder Johnnie Davis. “There is no doubt that Persona is well on its way to becoming the premier player in the segment, and we couldn’t be more excited about being part of the company’s growth.”
Cybulski said Columbia impressed him with its college population, open-air farmers market and vibrant downtown scene. He said he also could not deny the positive vibes of the city’s residents.
“There’s nothing like Southern hospitality,” he said. “The people are absolutely wonderful and that makes it fun.”